Georgia and Kentucky played football on Saturday, but the game had so many sudden changes of position and momentum that it looked more like table tennis.
The Bulldogs and the Wildcats combined for eight turnovers as Georgia clinched the Southeastern Conference Eastern Division title with a 19-10 win on Saturday at Sanford Stadium.
“It felt kind of fluky, kind of weird,” Georgia defensive end Abry Jones said. “It felt more like a ping pong match than anything. Even though we created some turnovers on offense, we really didn’t get a chance to really execute on them. But I think we did a great job on defense when they got turnovers to not let Kentucky really execute on ours.”
Turnovers characterized Saturday’s game as four of the eight combined scoring drives started after a fumble or an interception.
“Not that we were thinking something was going to go wrong, but we felt like we were on edge the whole time,” Georgia linebacker Christian Robinson said. “When you’re on defense, you just want to stop them and get off the field and get the ball back. But you could never feel comfortable.
“You couldn’t relax except when you were running off the field. That’s when we knew we’d done our job and we could get a quick drink. But you couldn’t really relax until you saw those zeros on the clock.”
With both offenses being so generous, the defenses took center stage. Georgia won that matchup as it forced four turnovers that led to 13 points, including a fumble recovery by Robinson at the Kentucky 10-yard line that led to the Bulldogs’ only touchdown of the game. Kentucky turned Georgia’s four turnovers into just seven points and that drive was aided by a pass interference penalty in the end zone.
“It was crazy,” Georgia linebacker Jarvis Jones said. “As a defense, we just want to get as many turnovers as we can and give our offense a chance to score. I think we did that pretty well today, just going out there and playing lights-out. Any opportunity we get to step on the field, we’ve got to make something happen. We’re a defensive team. We fight every inch and try to give our offense the ball back.”
Brandon Smith and Brandon Boykin each had interceptions while kicker Brandon Bogotay and Robinson recovered fumbles for Georgia. The play of the game might have come when Jarvis Jones sacked Kentucky quarterback Maxwell Smith and Robinson jumped on the ball at the Wildcats’ 10-yard line. Three plays later, Aaron Murray hit Marlon Brown for a 7-yard touchdown and Georgia led 19-10 with 14:55 left in the game.
“I just came around and the defensive line pushed the quarterback together and he lost the ball,” Robinson said. “I had one that I lost last year against Florida and I decided I wasn’t going to lose another one, so I just jumped on it. I thought about scoop and score, but we work on that in practice where if you don’t get it the first time, you fall on it. I didn’t feel like I got the ball the first time, so I just fell on it.”
Georgia ’s offense contributed its share to the sloppy ball-handling The Bulldogs lost three fumbles (two by Brandon Harton, one by Ken Malcome) and Murray threw an interception. Missed passes and poor execution stalled four possessions inside Kentucky’s 22-yard line and the Bulldogs had to settle for field goals.
“It wasn’t a stellar performance by the offense by any means,” Georgia fullback Bruce Figgins said. “But Coach (Todd) Grantham and the defense showed up like they show up every week and that makes our job a lot easier. We had some turnovers and some missed passes. But it’s the win that counts and we were able to pull it out in the end.
“They make it a lot easier for us. It’s good to know when you’ve got a defense like we do, it makes you a lot more confident. We’ve got a lot of confidence in the defense doing its job, we’ve just got to put up some points.”